Quick Lemon Pesto Chicken and Orzo Skillet
This quick lemon pesto chicken and orzo skillet comes together in under 30 minutes. Full of comforting cheese, a bit of fresh tang from lemon, and sweetness from chewy sun dried tomatoes, this quick chicken pasta dish is a fresh, easy take on comfort food.
This is meal two in my Grief Meals series, or what people fed me after my loss.
This meal was inspired by a friend of a friend. When I say people came out of the woodwork to feed us, I’m not exaggerating. I’ve never met the woman who made us the cheesy pesto chicken, and yet she still sent my friend over to bring my family a delicious meal.
The original cheesy chicken pesto she sent to us was a bake, kind of like a pesto chicken baked ziti. Her casserole had tomatoes and spinach, which added a nice bit of freshness to the dish. My quick pesto chicken and orzo skillet substitutes sun dried tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes for an added burst of sweetness.
I also changed the dish to make it easy to make on the stove top in less time. You could still absolutely gift this dish to a family going through a hard time, or you could make it for your own family on any busy weeknight since the whole thing comes together in just a little more time than cooking orzo requires.
Have you ever had orzo? For me it’s super comforting since my grandma used to make it for me with butter and cheese when I was little. But if you haven’t had it, it’s little rice sized pasta noodles. They do expand when they are cooked, but it does kind of feel like eating pasta rice. For this quick pesto chicken and orzo skillet, I used whole wheat orzo for a little extra health bonus. However feel free to use regular orzo or even rice instead.
What I love about this dish, especially for gifting to someone going through a rough time, is it has tons of freshness from the pop of lemon and the fresh spinach. So this comforting bowl of pasta and chicken still tastes fresh, not like another casserole full of just carbs. The freshness is a welcome change from other casseroles when that’s what you are living off of during a crisis.
Making the Quick Lemon Pesto Chicken and Orzo Skillet
- To keep the cook time on this to a minimum, cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes. Marinate them in the lemon and garlic while you wait for the water to boil.
- Be sure to use baby spinach instead of regular spinach. The baby spinach doesn’t need you to pull the stems off while the mature spinach does.
- Add the spinach in at the very end so it just wilts and turns beautifully vibrant green.
- Feel free to use homemade pesto instead of store bought if you choose. However, don’t feel like you need to because the lemon adds brightness and freshness to the store bought pesto.
Looking for other grief meal recipes? Try these:
Looking for other pesto recipes? Try these:
For the chicken
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 chicken breasts, cut into inch cubes
- juice of 1 lemon
- 4 garlic cloves pressed
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp rosemary
- 2 cups cooked orzo*
- 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
- 1 cup of spinach**
- 3/4 cup pesto sauce
- 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Cook the orzo according to the directions on the package.
- Put cubed chicken into a small bowl. Press garlic cloves over it and season with salt, pepper, red pepper, rosemary, and juice of 1 lemon. Toss to combine.
- While the orzo cooks, heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. When pan is hot, add chicken. Cook chicken for about 2-3 minutes per side or until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Once chicken is cooked, add spinach and cook for about a minute until spinach just begins to wilt. Add in pesto, tomatoes, orzo, and grated Parmesan. Stir to combine thoroughly. Once combined, top with shredded cheese. Broil for 2 minutes or until cheese melts or bake for 20 minutes at 350 until cheese melts and bubbles. Enjoy!
- Serving Size: 1
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